Monday, December 31, 2007

and a happy new year…

There always seems to be an air of trepidation hanging over Australia this time of the year. It is a relatively care-free time, summer and holiday season. It is also a time of deadly bushfires, beach disasters, an increase in road deaths and the odd natural disaster one place or another.

Still, we do try to look at the positive side, a sort of notional delineation between old woes and new joy. Not that I really understand the notion when every day we wake up we have the opportunity to try and fix those things we recognise need fixing.

The negatives will always be with us, but I wish you all blessings and wonderful gifts in the coming year. Keep fighting the good fight my friends and know that every small gain is far preferable to the alternative.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

If they played baseball in Pakistan

Given that the vast majority of visitors to Grub Street are North American it seemed a bad move to mention cricket in the headline. I will let you conjure with the baseball proposition, but will discuss the real game, well real to we Australians and to Pakistanis among others.

Among the pantheon of cricketing greats is one Imran Khan, former Pakistan captain and current leader of one of the countries smaller parties Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (Pakistan Movement for Justice). Though the party is small, in a country where personality rules, Imran Khan ensures it punches above its weight.

Khan, the chairman of the party is also the Chancellor of the University of Bradford, England. He has a BA in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and is a Master of Arts of the University of Oxford. You are going to here more from this man in the future as one of the louder pro-democracy voices in Pakistan.

Khan has demanded Musharraf's resignation in the backdrop of former Premier Benazir Bhutto's assassination. Emphasising the need for the opposition parties to come together against Musharraf, he said that free and fair elections were needed for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan. He will continue to speak out on this issue, but what does he stand for?

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf represents a slice of the countries middle class voters, one of its current aims is to remove the military from political power. But more to the point they are seeking a sustainable democracy for the country.

Khan has recently put forward a solution for Pakistan's issues related to its system which is probably indicative of the thrust. His solution has three points:

  1. Independent Election Commission
  2. Independent Judiciary
  3. Independent Accountability Bureau

Keep an eye out for Imran and wish him and his party well.

"Our future and the future of our children is at stake and we must show that we made a stand. The truth is with you so there is no need to fear the consequences!" -- Imran Khan, Sep 20 2007

The India cricket team are currently touring Australia, which is a sort of blessing. Try as you might you can’t keep politics out of sport, certainly not at international level at least.

But Australia is due to tour Pakistan in March and our elite cricketers are understandably nervous, as are their families. A batsman might show a heap of bravery facing a 5 1/2 oz cricket ball hurtling at him at 90 miles an hour, but a country in chaos is another matter altogether.

The other side of the coin is that depriving the people of Pakistan of the diversion of a test match series could and probably would inflame frustration and anger. The last tour was relocated to Bangladesh because of security fears.

The Pakistani authorities are at pains to express guarantees for the safety of players, but they clearly cannot provide appropriate levels of security in the country. It seems increasingly likely Musharraf will be gone before March, but there are no clear signs of an easy succession.

Sports diplomacy has been effective in the past, but it also has its casualties. I admire Imran’s stand for his country and would love to see the Aussie team complete the tour, but I can also understand the concerns of players and their families in this situation.

Guantanamo detainee sort of free

“CONVICTED terrorism supporter David Hicks was in hiding last night after walking from Yatala prison without apologising for his crimes.” The Australian

Trust a Rupert Murdoch rag to put the boot in as soon as Hicks is finally, more or less, released from custody. Under strict control order conditions, Hicks has to be fingerprinted by South Australian Police within 24 hours of his release.

He also must abide by a midnight to 6am curfew and is banned from using telephones or internet servers not pre-approved by Australian Federal Police. He must also attend an Adelaide police station three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Having ensured this dubious liberty the Guantanamo apologists now want Hicks to risk breaking plea bargain conditions to satisfy their morbid support for the now discredited anti-terrorist regime.

"As part of my conditions of release from Guantanamo Bay, I agreed not to speak to the media on a range of issues before March 30, 2008. It's my intention to honour this agreement as I don't want to do anything that might result in my return there. So for now, I will limit what I have to say. I will say more at a later time.''

The truth is Hicks made the most minimal guilty plea to escape the place, a plea of supporting terrorism. He might well be waiting now for the opportunity to repudiate that plea rather than apologise for something for which he is not guilty.

On the other hand he has made it clear he just wants to get on with life, and might avoid comments altogether. Either way he is legally bound, for now, to make no comment on the issue. I would like to see a book come out of this, but under Australian law he can’t profit from it.

Finally, he did say in a statement that he recognised "the huge debt of gratitude that I owe the Australian public for getting me home'. I will not forget or let you down,'' he said. He also thanked his lawyers, various politicians and organisations that had lobbied for his fair treatment.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Look who loaded the gun

Today I can be angry, if not over the murder of Benazir Bhutto then over the repeated failure of US policy makers to recognise the lessons of history. US administrations consistently back an individual rather than institutions. They consistently come undone when that individual is despatched.

In the Middle East/sub-continent region go no further than Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (pictured), Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, Benazir and on the negative side Saddam, Arafat and I’m sure you can all add to both lists.

The point being that, once the individual is gone so goes the whole policy ball of wax. It is a thin and fragile precept, doomed to failure as the designated individual is doomed.

It is not a matter of who pulls the trigger, it is the official US adherence to a clearly flawed approach. International politics is not Hollywood, the star quality is too fragile a concept. By not investing in sustainable institutions the US is simply lunging from one disaster to the next.

On the Bhuttos

I have long admired the murdered Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, and believe he was the driving force behind Benazir’s political life. Let’s face it; she was a big spending society girl before her father was killed by a Pakistan military regime. She did not speak any of her home languages (Urdu or Sind) with any fluency and preferred the delights of London and East Coast US.

The US, in a sense, created or at least encouraged Ali to take the same steps his daughter took. He had been Pakistani ambassador to the US and a figure nearly as charismatic as Kennedy, certainly more so than Benazir.

I spoke previously of star quality and admit, as a product perhaps of an early introduction to politics, my rock stars tend to come from the ranks of politics. When the Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq military coup ousted then murdered the US backed Bhutto it left a deep and lasting impression on me.

It is easy for we mere mortals to focus on individuals, there is only so much we can devote our attention too. Administrations, on the other hand, are complex creatures with massive resources. For them to still simply focus on the individual is more than simple minded laziness it is a crime against humanity.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A tear for Benazir


I doubted you at times, but never stopped adoring you

You were the worthy daughter of your father

Like him you will live on in hearts and minds

A granite like presence into an uncertain future

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Swing your partner to the left then dosado

The political pendulum has started its swing back from arch conservatism to social equity. Each swing last around 30 years and each manifestation has its own distinctive style. Even within a set swing there are national variations.

But don’t get these social/economic swings confused with the more frequent boom/bust cycles. They are no doubt coloured by the broader influence, but tend to occur independently of the governing paradigm.

The market economics swing that is just ending began around 1979 with Thatcher in Britain. The Western democracies it seems were ripe for a bit of personal greed, albeit personal for a select few.

But it wasn’t the sole prerogative of the right, in Australia the charge was led by the then supposedly socialist Labor Party. The previous 30 years in Australia had been dominated by John Howard’s very own Liberal Party, who were at the time responding to a largely social economic agenda.

If you find all this confusing, you are probably right. Labels really become fairly useless in the face of the realities. Comedian Mort Sahl was recently quoted: "A conservative is someone who believes in reform. But not now." Historically he might be right, but these outgoing bunches of conservatives are among the most prodigious reformers in history.

I’m not sure what the colour of this next swing to the so called left will be. From what I’m seeing here, and in Britain, I suspect it will be a very slow dismantling of market dominance; accompanied by a steady build up of social equality. Some commentators suggest a decade before we see any real change.

Now to the signs

Leading US conservative philosopher, Francis Fukuyama, argues that the conservative movement in the US has reached a kind of exhaustion.

"Socially and politically, America is ripe for a broad historic shift to the Left," Fukuyama says. It seems to be happening already. The Republicans lost their majorities in both houses of Congress at the 2006 mid-term election, and now seem likely to lose the White House at the election next November. SMH

Former Aussie Foreign Minister Downer knows the exact day on which the fall of the Howard government began. Better yet, he even knows the hour. It was 7pm on March 1, 2006, a year and nine months before the Australian voter consigned the Howard era to history.

Downer could see that the conservative Howard government had implemented its agenda and had nothing left but to manage it. That is the great difficulty for the neo-conservatives; their major reform issues are strictly of the ‘set and forget’ variety.

The basic thrust of market economics governments is to give basic economic management tools to central banks, industry regulators and corporations, leaving fiscal policy (the distribution of the countries various incomes) for themselves.

This is a major area where the Neo-Cons have screwed up big time. They are control freaks: They invariably intervene to ensure welfare is delivered to the corporate sector at the expense of the wider community.

In desperation to hold on to power they will prosecute wars on foreign soil as well as among their own people. Remember Reagan couldn’t simply have a campaign against drugs, it had to be a war. Bush extended that concept to waging war on his own people.

That same desperation will see them go counter to the economic managers in an effort to win back the hearts and minds of the people. Usually this is by means of tax cuts intended to go right back to the corporates. Or alternatively, as my redhead realist, D.K. Raed puts it:

“Today we have Bush consulting Supply-Side Jesus, embracing deficit-spending, not for social good, but for corporate enrichment of his neocon cronies. Meanwhile, the whole world becomes poorer.”

The critical point for the market economics stream is that the agenda is strictly limited. Once it is implemented they have little to offer the electorate. Concepts like social and economic equality simply don’t exist in their thinking. Balance that with an electorate which is increasingly dissatisfied and there can only be one result.

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead

For better or worse it isn’t going to be that simple, but then it never is. D.K. Raed (in this comment ) also conjured the name of one of the great practical economists – J K Galbraith (a Canadian as it happens). Galbraith famously took Keynesianism and applied it in that incredibly effective Marshall Plan,

If radical is putting the means of rebuilding into the hands of those most directly affected then Galbraith might be called radical. If the same process could be labelled as reformist then he was a reformer. The fact is, I believe, he was neither of those things. Galbraith simply took the problem as it existed and sought the most effective solution.

This pendulum swing, I predict, will be slow and cautious. Enormous damage has been done over the past 30 years and many of the emerging leaders seem to have a profound sense of the care needed in healing the damage.

There is a rising dissatisfaction over widening social and economic inequality, but it won’t be answered with the knee jerk reactions of the past. The excesses are too well entrenched. As Fukuyama puts it:

“The problem has been getting progressively worse for 30 years. You get none of the idea of noblesse oblige. The Rockefeller Republicans are gone."

At the same time progressives have bought the market economy concept too, though with obvious reservations. As a result I doubt we will see and mammoth pendulum swing very soon. In fact I suspect we are more likely to see the pendulum easing towards the political/economic centre and perhaps gradual movements either way from there.

Optimistic, I know. But given the damage from the excesses of the past few hundred years and a growing sophistication, the time has come. The cycle has reached the point of change, but this change should be more drawn out and softer than some in the past.

I would like to visit some of the discrepancies and paradoxes in all this. Perhaps in the future…

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

On a roll

Nothing like a mental holiday to inspire thoughts of lavatory paper, and while I work on my terminally long and boring review of the current pendulum swing it makes an almost pleasant diversion.

I know it sounds unsavoury, but let’s face it; only half the population is concerned with female sanitary products, but we are all obliged to reach for the bog roll on a daily basis. If there is one there to reach for…

Forget about seat up or down argument; that pales in the face of the lack of paper at appropriate moments. And despite living my formative years with telephone book pages spiked on a nail I am enamoured of the pristine roll.

Truth is, and the grumble is, my skin has become rather sensitive to those quaint additives that are supposed to make dunny paper consumer acceptable. Call me old fashioned, but I like a nice white, two ply paper, chlorine bleach and all. Recycled toilet paper conjures images I don’t deal well with.

I don’t really need to see political slogans, pretty representations of shells, or other printed material on my arse wipe. If I want to entertain myself in the lav I’ll take a book.

Equally I don’t see the point of loading the pretty paper with perfumes. Personally I don’t have much of a sense of smell, so I can’t judge how effective a cover the scent really is. But my skin reacts badly to all of these additives. A rash on the bum is not a pretty sight.

I tend to buy a product labelled Hypo-Allergenic. The labelling goes through all the things that have not been forced into or onto the paper. It proclaims proudly that it has been tested for allergic responses. Bugger me, the thought of pre-tested paper is my latest worry.

What it is, in reality, is what I used to buy as just plain toilet rolls. They didn’t have to proclaim it as special back then, it was just the way the product came. The good news is that they don’t charge extra, here at least, to not put all that crap in the paper before I get to it.

I could now go on with washing detergents, but the argument is much the same except they do charge extra for leaving out the additives. Screw Madison Avenue and its progeny. Just give me unadulterated products, I’ll add my own poisons.

Now back to the pre new year’s opus…

Friday, December 21, 2007

The goodies keep coming

I keep thinking this has been an enormous year for a political junkie, then remember the last three have been pretty full. Partly political, totally emotion perhaps, these are the last two bits I’ll share before Christmas.

The Whales

Okay, it sounds a bit tree hugging, but today we celebrate a welcome reprieve from Japanese plunder of our Southern Ocean whales. Howard’s halfwits, those dregs from the former government, were incensed that Rudd’s government might risk diplomatic relations with Japan just to rescue whales.

I’m not sure how these people live there lives, but for the majority of Australian, who live on the continents coastline, the slow build up in whale populations has become almost personal.

Year by year now we see these magnificent animals move north up our coastlines from the chilly southern waters. The move north during our winter, hugging the coast as they go, to give birth to their young in safe waters.

On the trip back south they shelter in inlets and harbours, often close to large populations. We not only get to see these animals playing and nurturing, we actually track and have names for many of them now.

There is a strong body of scientific research and a growing emotional attachment to the whales. Japan claim scientific research too, but they say they need to murder 1,050 of them to carry out there research.

The Rudd government took a soft approach to the problem, simply threatening to monitor and record the killing activity, in preparation for a strong legal challenge. Obviously Japanese official recognised the threat of recorded evidence is more powerful than diplomatic games.

Of Kids and Goths

I can’t say I really understand kid culture, but then I’m an adult and it is not my place to understand. I know many of us are saddened by self destructive behaviour and that has become synonyms with tribal groups like Goths and Emos.

A couple of things this week reminded me of the complexity of most social groupings. Nothing quite like seeing a humerous approach to dealing with their own issues.

First was a tee shirt I saw down the street, sported by one of those pale skinny kids dressed in black with funny hairdos and body piercings. It read:

Be happy Emo Kid!

The second was my young friend Jake, of the Army cadets’ story recently. Jake is telling his Goth friends a few jokes now. Like:

Did you hear about the ice addict who committed suicide when his stash melted?

Did you here about the emu who was depressed because he didn’t have arms to cut.

Okay, sick, but really heartening that these kids are talking about issues and dealing with their own.

I’m not going anywhere, and will be around the blogs. I just need a mental break from producing for a few days. Have a wonderful Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

A bag full of gifts

In a few short days Australia will pretty much close down for a month, but the political goodies look to keep coming right up to Christmas this year. With a new regime in place each day is bringing a new stocking filler.

I’ve reported heavily, over the past few years, on the AWB wheat scandal. This former semi-government wheat marketing outfit were caught up in the Food for Oil fiasco, funnelling hundreds of millions into Saddam’s war chest.

We had a long running commission of inquiry here, then nothing. Now the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has launched Supreme Court action against six former directors and officers of wheat exporter AWB Ltd.

I feared that with so many other pressing issues the Rudd government might let this one pass. But ASIC are the regulator and it is their role to prosecute commercial miscreants. Wonderful Christmas news!

Mind you, I’m still hoping those in the former government involved in this scandal are also called on to answer, that is Howard, Downer and Vaile in particular. I’m still hoping the US will start looking seriously at US officials involved, including former Secretary of State, Colin Powell.

This was a back room deal between US and Australian government officials, and part of the great lie constructed to justify Iraq invasion. Senator Coleman has tried several times to get a US inquiry up, but was smothered by the Bush admin. Perhaps with the Aussie moves he can try again. That would be the star on top of the tree.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The signs are comforting

It is 23 days since the federal election and already four books about the campaign are out. Well it is Christmas and books are a great gift I guess.

Booklover that I am, I am still more than happy to simply watch events unfold rather than rely on rapidly gathered deep background publications. Many I have spoken with before Rudd’s win, people from both sides of the divide, shared the concern that we just don’t know who Rudd is.

In a parliamentary system that shouldn’t matter, but Howard showed us it matters immensely. Rudd’s campaign was well packaged, tight and didn’t give much away in any direction.

The divide itself was illusory to a great extent. After sticking to the ‘small election target’ plan Rudd seems to be now listening to what people really wan for our immediate future.

From both sides of the divide, those of us who were expecting an early showing of real Rudd have not been disappointed, more bemused that it seems he is what he portrayed only (tentative here) better.

The Bali Kyoto talks have gone down well, with the exception of the headless Howard halfwits. They are now supporting Rudd’s plans and attacking at the same time. Rudd risks our future relations with the US; Rudd’s Kyoto moves were not part of his election baggage & etc.

Rudd promised to rid the country of Howard’s odious Industrial Relations laws, and is doing so, but ever so carefully and slowly. He is treating it with the same caution we use to remove an unwanted program from a PC, because we don’t want to rip out interconnected DLLs and destroy our whole system.

There is even public talk that Rudd might have the guts to break the big tax cuts promise. Most Australians are aware that either spending $30 odd billion on tax cuts or on infrastructure will put pressure on inflation. They will wear the inflation if our health and education systems are bout up to scratch first.

Rudd has planned a full cabinet meeting to take place in a Northern Territory indigenous community. The point being that he wants his ministry to know from harsh experience what they are making decisions about. No government here has ever taken such an evidence based approach to the thorny Aboriginal issue.

The first woman to ever hold the title of Acting Prime Minister of Australia (during the Bali meeting), Julia Gillard, holds a far more important first - Minister for Social Inclusion.

None of this is wild radical stuff, and the signs are that it is infinitely more economically responsible that the Howard model. Personally I hanker for the ‘fire in the belly’ days of politics, but for now I am grateful for what is unfolding.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Not a good look for the USA

UNITED Nations-led climate talks in Bali agreed last night to launch talks on a new global warming deal to succeed the Kyoto Protocol, after the US dropped last-minute opposition. The AGE

AFTER a drama-filled day and a backdown by the US, 190 nations last night set a 2009 deadline for a landmark pact to fight global warming.

Senior US negotiator Paula Dobriansky was booed from the floor for refusing to accept the final draft worked out with Europe, China and India. An hour later the US delegation backed down and promise it would come to a consensus. SMH

Dobriansky rejected the compromise. "We cannot accept this," she said. "We are not prepared to accept the formulation at this time." Ms Dobriansky was immediately attacked by the South African delegation, which said her words were "most unwelcome and without any basis". The AGE

The TV coverage here was even more emotional and evocative. The bloody minded Bush administration has just dragged the US international image through the sewers.

The final US compromise (or backdown) is said to have hinged on the upcoming Hawaii climate conference. The fear was that George W would be the only person to turn up for the Hawaii gig.

The days of the Bush bully tactics are now past. I’m not sure what State Department analysts do with their time, but they certainly don’t get down to reading the international mood.

The part that hurts me is listening to people slamming those ‘bloody Americans’. There are situations when the US government becomes the people which some of us understand is not the case. But Bush doesn’t help the situation.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What sort of society is this?

The photo is of Maxine McKew, the woman who defeated a sitting Prime Minister John Howard in his own seat. I guess Maxine was looking for some sort of acknowledgement, but readers went apeshit because of this photo. McKew picture revealed more about the editor

The accusation is that the photographer was looking up Maxine’s skirt, diminishing her dignity. I thought Howard and not the photographer diminished the dignity with his sour frog mouth.

“Offended readers, particularly women, complained on local ABC radio on Thursday… “

"An unflattering view of a historic political moment." Among them: "The picture is quite appalling and insensitive. Do your readers really need to be seeing up her dress?"

I have to say I didn’t see up her skirt, I saw faces: a woman asking for some reasonable concession and I saw an old foe who refuses to concede to anyone. Damn, I still can’t look up her dress, but I am very angry at Howard’s lack dignity.

This, I hope, is truly the death of an era and a birth of something worthwhile.

Correction: It has been pointed out by an Aussie visitor that this is not the right picture. I get so few of them I can usually sneak the odd bit in, but life is a lottery.

The fact is I didn’t really see the need to display Maxine’s supposed private bits; I was more concerned about the ungracious former Prime Minister.

Still, it is reassuring to know a fellow Aussie drops by.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The law’s an ass

Two court cases have been catching a lot of attention here over the past few weeks, one essential trivial the other deeply concerning. I both cases there are serious questions about the application of the law.

The first was a young Australian bloke who threw a snowball at a Colorado ski resort co-worker. Authorities said 21-year-old Andrew Thistleton hit Michelle Oehlert with the snowball last February when both were working at a Copper Mountain ski resort rental shop.

An effing snowball, and it has cost Thistleton and his mum $20000 to defend a very serious criminal charge which should never have gone near a court. The first day of the trial was spent empanelling a jury, within an hour of the actual hearing on the second day the trial was aborted.

Oehlert, the prosecution witness, and sensing that her claim was flimsy at best tried to introduce allegations of sexual assault. So out of pocket and having gone through months of hell Andrew was told this week that the prosecutor dismissed the charge "the best interest of justice". Hardly justice served.

Rape or just dysfunctional fun?

The other case took place in an indigenous community in far north Queensland. Nine boys and men had ‘consensual’ sex with a ten year old girl. That was the court finding at least, on the prosecutors recommendation. The judge's decision? Set the rapists free.

It doesn’t help that the girl had been abused at seven. It doesn’t help that the males were from a community regarded “dysfunction - bereft of parental influence, poorly educated…” Sure there are some complex issues at play here, but not at the expense of rule of law.

IT pains Aurukun Mayor Neville Pootchemunka to say it, but the nine males who pleaded guilty to raping a 10-year-old in his community last year should be in jail. The reason it pains him is that one of the adult perpetrators is his son, Ian Koowarta.”

I am not a knee jerk punishment freak, but the messages in this, that a ten year olds acquiescence can mitigate the behaviour of young adults is plainly wrong. The world is moving rapidly to a zero tolerance on predatory sex. So it should.

I just have fears of sleazy predators seeing this episode as some sort of justification for their sick behaviour. There is no justification for, the poor dears are too dumb to know the difference…”

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The market economy lie

The bigger the lie, the greater the likelihood that it will be believed. -- Adolf Hitler

The increasing level of government intervention in our market economies is really rattling my cage. No country has ever had within its border an economy in which all markets were absolutely free, the term is typically not used in an absolute sense. So why bullshit about it?

As an entrenched Keynesian I am a firm believer in up front government intervention, although unlike the neo-conservatives I prefer a model with some sort of social equity. No free ride, no widespread welfare allocation, simply social equity.

I am talking about the sort of thinking behind J K Galbraith’s remarkably successful Marshall Plan, the rebuilding of a war devastated Europe. The basis of that economic plan was to empower the people to rebuild their own society.

Theoretically market economics sound fine, but it loses any credibility one a government steps in to tweak the system. It is ‘set and forget’ as far as governments are concerned. But once their corporate buddies run into problems the market look to government to bail them, which is intervention in my book.

The point is market economics is more political or ideological than economic. At least be open an honest about regulation, even if it is in favour of the corporate world rather than the wider community.

Conservative apologists, not the self serving corporates who we can expect to defend there patch but those misguided souls who think it is in their interest, need to look at a few realities.

The basics of economics are not simple or inclusive, but it is not rocket science. Global economics has tended to create certain similarities around the world. Most capital markets are facing various levels of crises at the moment, but they aren’t necessarily the same crises.

Australia, for example, is facing a recession driven by a rapidly growing economy. The US, on the other hand, is suffering from a severe downturn. With sound management neither will hit the wall particularly.

The US is protected by its weight of foreign debt, among other things. China for example would be seriously hurt by a US crash and resulting defaults. Australia actually benefits from adjustments to the US economy at nearly every turn these days.

The truth, as they say, is out there. Look beyond the basic editorial comments at the reality. Intervention is a fact of life, and you can forget the lies to the alternative, regardless of the economic model. But if we are going to have intervention, make it equitable.


An additional thought

The new Australian PM, Kevin Rudd, has reintroduced a seemingly minor change, but one with a potentially powerful economic message. Under the former conservatives it was simply Australia, now we have returned to the older version, the Commonwealth of Australia.

Just words? If it is that basic then why change. The term commonwealth is charged with powerful meaning, socially and economically. Why is it so pregnant with meaning? I’ll do the bulk of my readers a favour and refer to Websters, though the word goes back well before that etymological absurdity.

It actually derives from an old Scottish word – commonweal. As far back as the 1500’s Bishop John Knox has defined Scotland as a Commonwealth – ‘rule for the good of the people’.

Wha for Scotland's King and Law

Freedom's sword will strongly draw,

Freeman stand, and freeman fa',

Let him follow me!

I don’t see any radical changes on the horizon, and like many I’m thankful. It was the conservatives who were intent on radical change, and the dispossession of the broader rights of the people. It was the so called conservatives who were attempting to make radical changes to recreate a feudal society.

I find it difficult to understand how US society could be duped at all by this neo-conservative push. Everything about commonwealth resonates through the creation of the United States of America. Repudiating dominance of titled masters echoed the passion of the historic Scots.

The common good, the good of all citizens! It is not communism, or socialism, or bleeding heart liberal. It is about the democratic rights of every man, woman and child to have the opportunity to forge their own life without big corporations and governments trampling them from the outset.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Pig Farm Killer,Pickton, verdict no surprise

After a 10-month trial marked by horrific and often grisly evidence, Robert William Pickton, a pig farmer, was convicted Sunday of second-degree murder in the deaths of six women.

This case has riveted rumour around the Vancouver (BC) area for over six years now. From the outset it was clear that Willie Picton wasn’t the brightest button on the vest, a view which was confirmed during the trial.

Given the prostitution (and consequent drugs) involved in the case there is a strong potential that Pickton was the bunny in the game, no less culpable, but hardly the driving force.

In the event he was essentially convicted as an accessory, as the jury seemed to believe he was not the sole or even leading perpetrator. Maybe Willie is just brilliant at playing dumb, and perhaps he should have gone straight into acting.

Still facing at least 30 more charges the Pickton saga is far from over. I expect the prosecution and investigators will now be under pressure to look beyond the easy answers and face the challenge of dealing with the protected web behind these serial murders.

Like many others, I think Pickton was a willing dupe. I also think there is a far more sinister story behind this case. One which reaches into groups authorities would rather not stir up. At the very least culpability might well be in the form of tacit approval by some authorities, but probably includes a more severe form of enforcement from others.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Afghanistan is not Iraq

AUSTRALIAN troops will remain in Afghanistan until at least 2010 - doubling the original two-year commitment - in a decision that has not been formally announced or debated. SMH

The proposed pull out from Iraq or partial pull out more likely, is more than welcome. Aussie military will continue to provide Iraqi administration and the US marines based there with surveillance and reconnaissance facilities, according to some reports.

The news of an extended presence came out of a report from Dutch authorities. The Dutch were going to pull out of Afghanistan, which would have taken away essential support for the Australian troops and probably forced their withdrawal. So I guess it appropriate that any leak should come out of that quarter.

While Australians generally want all the troops back Afghanistan still stands as a vastly different issue to Iraq. There is a humanitarian aspect to the Afghan conflict, as we are a preferred destination for Afghan refuges there is also a logic to helping create some stability in that region.

While there are some Australian elite troops in the country the bulk of our effort is in reconstruction. Admittedly these aren’t the sort of builders you mess with they are committed to that rebuilding process. If Rudd takes a bit of care about explaining our role there I have little doubt Aussies will fall in line with any plans for an extended tour.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Mortgages, rents and elections

Now the new Australian government is bedding in the Howard post postmortems are dominating news background stories. How was such a well entrenched conservative government rolled so comprehensively?

With the US elections looming, and many of the dynamics so well aligned, the recent poll here could shed some light on how and why things will play out in 2008. I still claim that economics, household economics, is the best indicator.

The rational for Howard’s defeat is being place variously on:

I guess each of these elements might find resonance in the US, but I’m inclined to stick with the household economic argument. Not that I agree totally with many of the commentators. For example:

“VOTERS in electorates recording the highest rates of home repossessions voted more strongly for Labor than areas not facing the same home-loan pressures, according to figures on the influence mortgage stress had on the federal election result.” Fear of losing homes drove Labor win

This view is focused and simplistic. It is focussed on a number of Sydney metropolitan electorates and as my favourite psephologist Antony Green notes:

“…the seats identified did not appear to select the seats with the lowest incomes, but rather those facing the highest cost-of-living expenses,” Which doesn’t make the finding false, just misleading.

The fact is, in those particular electorates the swing to Labor was far higher than in other electorates across the state. But a contained swing doesn’t translate into a broad sweep of wins. That focus failed to recognise another dynamic, equally housing related, and the one that delivered the additional seats Rudd required.

I'm inclined to call it something like 'domestic security stress'.

The growing regional centres have their own mortgage, plus rental stress. In many of these regional centres housing availability is well below demand. Whether mortgage or rental, pressure is on to churn occupiers.

Regulars might recall the eviction notice we received here at campaign central, early in the campaign for Lyne. So I’m paranoid and at the time saw a correlation. While the effort at intimidation continues (the legal approach failed) I find myself helping other people who are being put under pressure to vacate their properties.

The fact is, with a shortage of housing stock, agents can benefit handsomely by turning over property occupancy. Rents particularly will soar and prices will no doubt rise as a consequence. Rudd would not have taken regional seats without this housing pressure.

And in the middle of all this George W Bush wants to save the sorry arses of property speculators. I guess this is where I show my left credentials, such as they are. But more, I am pointing out that you screw people’s ability to have some sort of domestic security at your political peril.

Our economies are being raped in the name of corporate greed. We should expect our governments to restrain the sort of excesses that see families forced out of homes. The sub-prime fiasco used greed to feed greed, and should have been monitored. Don’t bail out the speculators, bail out the victims.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Updating an election prediction formula

So I have a thing about economics and I find the concept that a particular set of indices, i.e. unemployment rate, inflation and interest rates might be a certain indicator of how an incumbent government will fair.

I used this formula to correctly predict the overall outcome of the 2007 US Mid Term election, and again with the recent Australian General election. Okay, I was out by a few seats in each, but not in the overall result.

The model has it that if two or more of these rise over a full, three-year electoral cycle, the government will lose. The problem is that governments have made it increasingly difficulty to track the key statistics. They seem to feel that obfuscation will save their arses.

The fact is, when people are hurting out there in the real world statistics don’t mean a damn. As someone said during the recent election here;

“…when families report that they can no longer afford to go for a Sunday drive or treat the family to a take out meal there is a problem”.

I don’t have the recourses or skills to dig out these key figures, which were once readily available. The problem of finding hard household figures in the US, where the focus was on the ‘booming markets’ was frustrating.

But the anecdotal evidence of a major problem, particularly in the rust belt states, was plentiful. I’m still amazed that the well oiled Republican team didn’t recognize the problem until just a week or so out from the election.

A second, more visible signal was the Wal-Mart factor. On the face of it the high gas prices leading up to the Mid Terms were blamed for an obvious drop in Wal-Mart trading. The reality is that households at the economic edges were vulnerable to any trigger, and still are.

The Australian figures were more clear cut, after all we made history by having a rate hike during an election campaign. Rudd made his own history by winning hearts and minds by refusing to join in the vote buying spree Howard was intent on. Most voters were aware of the dangers of runaway spending.

What I find fascinating is that Bush, already on the nose during the Mid Terms, has made no effort to address household economic concerns. While ordinary families are doing it tougher all the time, analysts are stuck in their own double speak:

Monetary easing by the Fed will ease the pain of stretched U.S. household finances, but not turn around risk aversion unfolding among creditors.

And the administration contents itself with creating or driving scary diversions, long after the populace has worked out that the President is naked, bereft of any real answers for the people.

But we know Bush and the Repubs will lose the White House. The real focus should be to ensure a congress with the will and the ability govern the country and guide whoever breaks through to President.

It is time for the elected houses, the representatives of the people, to take a more effective role in the US. The presidency is taking on a role more akin to Hollywood than to good governance. The star factor is all very well, but it doesn’t put food on the table.


UPDATE:

I am intrigued (even a touch concerned) by Bush’s home loan bail out plan. Say what?

"There's no perfect solution and the homeowners deserve our help." George, the solution would have been to stay awake at the wheel and manage the economy.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Stormy weather

I experienced a dramatic first a couple of days ago; it was early evening with a really odd yellow cast to the light and constant rattling thunder above. A storm was forming directly overhead. There was blue sky around the horizon and heavy cloud boiling overhead.

Storm chasers are busy in Australia at the moment (Australian Storm Chasing) and I would have had to chase to watch this one play out; as it collapsed and spread we were just left with a few spits of rain and a memory of the event. Surrounding areas felt the full force of the storm.

It is storm season here, but we have also been in drought for over a decade. Scientists are saying the Southern Oscillation – El Nino – has switched. Apparently this has something to do with surface water temperatures In the Pacific and drives weather cycles across Australia and the Americas.

It is believed that El Nino may have contributed to the 1993 Mississippi and 1995 California floods, drought conditions in South America, Africa and Australia. Scientists are still trying to work out these fascinating mechanisms. El Niño Theme Page

It was fascinating standing under a forming storm cell, even if it was a relatively small one. In Sydney and outback Queensland I’ve watched supercell storms form at a distance then felt their power as the storm collapses and spreads. I’m no storm chaser, but it is a delight to be in the right place sometimes.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Kyoto dreaming

Ratifying Kyoto has struck me, for some time as too little too late. It is a symbolic gesture, but hardly touches the challenges facing our planet. Still, I was excited that the symbolic gesture was taken.

But our new PM, Kevin Rudd has ramped up the process in two ways:

  • He has declared that climate change will be the province of the Federal treasurer because it is as much an economic issue as it is environmental.
  • He has highly unveiled an ambitious and activist role for uniting the world on climate change.

The excitement for me is that someone is actually looking outside the box, taking issues on from a different perspective. I like it at face value, now we need to see what this new government can deliver.

It won’t be quick, Rudd is an economic conservative, but for once I don’t see that as a bad thing. The good part is that he has actually slipped social issues back into the economic agenda. Monetarism seems to be a thing of the past, or I hope it is, in Australia at least.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Bush alone at last

Kevin Rudd has ratified the Kyoto Protocol. Until the decision Australia and the US were the only major economies that had refused to ratify the protocol. Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson immediately backed the decision - marking a major departure from the era of John Howard

This blog has recorded the steady erosion of International support for the Bush regime. The political demise of John Howard leave George and his mates isolated now among developed nations. It took a while, now it is up to US voters to finish the job.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Washington Burning

An interesting side issue of attending an army cadet pass out parade last week came by way of historical reflection. The salute is usually by canon, this year muskets, fired by the 48th Regiment of Foot re-enactment group. (pictured)

These hardly souls are trotted out regularly as a tribute to their role in the settlement of this town, Port Macquarie. I had the camera and the nosy scribe in me attracted me to the group and a bit of the story. Well I know some of the story, but we always try and winkle that extra bit.

“Did you know the 48th were part the force that burned down the White House?” Well I was aware that British troops based in Canada torched the icon building in 1814, during the 1812 war. But I didn’t know who was actually involved.

It was an exciting thought, though I always had a jaded view of the 48th, so I started doing some digging. The background:

The War of 1812 was fought between the United States of America, on one side, and Great Britain, the British North American colonies, Upper and Lower Canada, and Nova Scotia on the other.

My research tells me that the raid on the still small town of Washington was carried out by British, as opposed to Canadian forces. The Canadians were mostly engaged in border skirmishes. The 48th were stationed in Bermuda at that time although thee is some mention of them taking part in border activity.

I contacted the Royal Anglian Regiment Museum for some clarification, as the 48th has been absorbed into that regiment, but I haven’t had a response. There are a lot of question marks in the local claim.

First up, the regiment had been pretty depleted in the French wars. They were often described as a remnant regiment in the Americas and didn’t particularly distinguish themselves here in Australia.

One story I have heard is that the local aboriginals were trained and armed to keep the regiment in check. Another issue, of course, is the White House wasn’t white until the outer walls were repainted after the fire to cover the soot.

But local claims aside, the wonderful part of the attack on Washington was the Brits had finally realised the only way to fight an essentially guerrilla freedom fighting force was with guerrilla tactics. They didn’t have the forces to take Washington, but they knew they could land a serious blow to morale.

Funny, we have all this history then still keep on blundering along like the Brits trying to subdue the freedom fighters in America. I keep thinking about Vietnam, which had so many parallels to the War of Independence. Then trying the same sad game on Iraq

I can’t tell you the gallant 48th burned down the proto-White House. Perhaps some of the 48th were part of the British Naval attack on the city, but I can’t find evidence one way or another. I can’t tell you the Canadians did or didn’t do the deed, though I expect they were busy elsewhere. I just love the whole story.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A cause for optimism?

A number of times over the life of this blog I have reflected on signs of the political/economic pendulum reversing its swing. The signs have been there, though depressingly slow, but I am seeing ‘on the ground’ signs following the Australian general election that the reverse has begun.

First a disclaimer: I have designated – free market Vs communitarian values; not arbitrary designations I might add, but clearly subjective. I could have equally used the emotional – greed Vs need – or a plethora of other evocative terms. Essentially we are talking about the difference between of extremes of a market dominated economy or one which puts the common good before all else. Extremes are unlikely to delivery any real value to any society.

But why optimistic? Prior to Election Day this country was, socially, an uncertain, unconfident, hotch potch of bravado, negativity and hope. The Monday after Saturday’s conclusive poll there was a new spirit abroad. Apologists for Howard’s regime were suddenly joyful critics.

Why powerful commentators and ordinary people in the street should be equally cowered by the Howard push is beyond me, but the floodgates opened that quickly. More than that, there is a broad call for rebuilding social infrastructure in a careful and measured way. This even to the degree of repudiating personal tax cuts in favour of direct investment in social capital.

I’m in danger of waffling on this, and not conveying anywhere near how dramatic the transformation has been. No one is talking about the new Prime Minister, Rudd, having a ‘honeymoon period’. It is not about waiting for failure but praying that this new light will not only last but will grow stronger by the day.

Arthur Schlesinger argued that politics ran in cycles of between 12 and 30 years, alternating between a communitarian phase favouring the public sphere - public education, health, transport, housing - and a neo-liberal phase that favoured the private economy.

The sense of optimism is that the tide has turned and the market economy experiment will now fade back into history. There is a wonderfully rich history to back Schlesinger’s assertion, which I am happy to share but will back off for now.

With US Presidentials looming these events in the far South Pacific offer a real sense of hope across the free democracies, a sense of real change starting. But it comes with two warnings;

1/ The real sense of hope probably doesn’t emerge until after the vote. The realisation needs to be grounded in reality.

2/ No one really wants to endure a dramatic swing, it can take a decade or more to properly dismantle the excesses of one regime and see the real changes biting.

Australia has done well to choose an economically conservative transition as we strive toward government for the common good.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Happy Christmas George

Prime Minister-elect Kevin Rudd has announced that Australian combat troops in Iraq should be withdrawn by about the middle of next year.

Combat troops to come home from Iraq The Age, Australia
Iraq pledge by Australia PM-elect BBC News

Australian troops to leave Iraq by mid-2008: Rudd AFP

Australia wants Iraq toops home by mid 2008 Reuters et al…

What more can I hay?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

If only life were black and white

I’ve always had mixed feelings about things military. I really abhor violence and weapons, which probably means they scare me, I’m not sure. On the other hand I understand the need for order and social discipline, within the proper constraints.

So when a friend’s son asked me to attend his cadet unit passing out parade I was pleased and wary at the same time. With only Mum and big sister 17 YO Jake looks to me as some kind of role model, which is odd for a kid intent on joining the army.

He’s not the first kid who has accepted my general antipathy to things military, but sought my moral support all the same. To be fair, Jake wants to be in transport, but I know life isn’t that cut and dry in the military, he might actually have to do the tough stuff.

But watching these kids train, to do drill and the rest fills me with a measure of pride. For me at their age it was gymnastics, which required self discipline through to leadership, without the spectre of military. But I can’t condemn the commitment I’ve seen in this lot or those I’ve known before.

While they were on the parade ground there was a chorus of jeers from over the field, the kids who won’t or can’t commit to anything. Oddly enough, I think those kids jeering are going to see more mindless violence than the kids on the parade ground sweating their butts off trying to achieve something.

D.K. Raed recently asked for our memories of 60s protest songs. With all the usual suspects likely to come out I went for an 80s song, reflecting on VietnamOnly 19

I was playing it on Youtube before I posted my comment and young Jake walked in and stopped in recognition of something special.

So here we are in late 2007 and a 17 YO tells me this song from the 1980’s about the 1960’s is some sort of anthem to these kids, the cadets. Damned if I know, the older I get the less I know.

I do know I felt very proud to have been invited to this event and to watch those kids trying to be the best they possibly could be. Young Corporal (Acting Sergeant) Jake was passing out after his five years of cadets and he did so with dignity and discipline. I know there were regrets and disappointments, but he didn’t show any of that.

If we have to have a military these young people, and those I’ve known in the past, give a real hope where I never thought I could expect it. It isn’t dumb aggression but rather an imperative to find some rational and sensible responses to those things we find so difficult to control.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Rage Factor

Kevin Rudd set the tone of our recent election in many ways, but above all he refused to engage the bitterness that is often a feature of these contests. He even went so far as to suggest there is no anger or hate at the Howard government, simply a desire to move on with a fresh team, suggesting more of the same in some ways.

From reports I’m getting, from poll workers on the day, there was a surprising level of anger and rage among voters. The general comment was that it was something these once a day every few years workers had never seen before.

In fact there has been a growing, and disturbing level of rage right across the country. Some of it manifests in the road rage we are blighted with, we have also seen the indiscriminate rage like the beach riots of recent years. Now neighbourhood rage is taking its sad toll.

The legacy of the Howard years covers a range of sad issues; the often boasted and promised wealth has simply not filtered through to most Australians. The financial suffering is widespread, but the message has been ‘everyone is doing well’, leaving the question; ‘what have I done wrong?’

John Howard’s policy simply left the people he was governing for out of the equation. During his victory speech Rudd promised to govern for all Australians, but significantly he chose to mention one particular man, a bloke who died yesterday – Bernie Banton.

"Bernie, you stand out as a clarion call to us all about what is decent and necessary in life and mate, I salute you," Mr Rudd said. He was referring to a man who had fought for years to win compensation for asbestos workers from James Hardie. It was a matter of the little bloke, a dying man, fighting the corporate giant.

Just days before the election and his death from asbestos related cancer won his final battle against the corporation, on top of helping to set up a $4 billion compensation fund to help mesothelioma sufferers gain access to a drug to help ease their pain and possibly extend their lives.

Bernie’s rage kept him alive long enough to win his final claim, and to stand as a clear symbol of where this country needs to head. Hid rage was highly targeted and stands as a great example for the rest of us. I hope Rudd is really reading the signals.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Reflections on a green connection

I guess getting personal is part of the blog experience, something I probably need to work on and will do so this post. I’ve never been secretive about my voting directions or my strange political turns, but voting a straight Green ticket is something I’m still coming to terms with just now.

When I resigned the liberal Party sometime back in the mid 1970s it was partly spurred on by the personal stress of a young family, a mortgage and a few very intense years of politics. We had a quick succession of Federal campaigns, plus a State campaign in those chaotic times.

I was angry over the swing of the Australian Liberals to the right, and I guess was copping a fair bit of fire for remaining a moderate. My health was suffering and my doctor was on leave. The locum was a young bloke (weren’t we all?) called Bob Brown.

Dr Bob was straight to the point, for my health sake, get out of politics. Well I was ready for a break, but Bob’s emergence, within months, as a leader of a seminal environmental movement did rock me. Not that I disagreed with his sentiments, just that he shunted me out while he was moving in.

Bob came to prominence as leader of the Wilderness society, fighting the destruction of Tasmanian pristine wilderness to create hydro electric power stations. It wasn’t a party, but it was a major movement.

For my part, politics was just part of who I am. I had admired the former liberal minister for customs, Don Chipp, and when he broke from the Liberals to help form a new party, the Australian Democrats, he had my support.

The democrats were about moderate politics, about a fair go for all, about supporting small business and individual enterprise. The party was about democracy and equity. Having refused to run as a bunny candidate for the Liberals, I was quick to actually stand in an unwinnable seat of Bass for the Democrats to help the vital Senate campaign.

Robin, the almost candidate of late, was my campaign manager and we swung 8% of the vote. I am still proud of that effort. But more, we were also representing the environment, the cause which took fire in Tasmania over those years. It was a strange position for me, as I was employed by Tasmania’s biggest timber (lumber) plunderer, Gunns Ltd.

I maintain I was and remain a moderate. I was in a position where I could talk with both the exploiters and those trying to save an incredible and globally significant natural environment. I did try to do that for a few years, talk to both sides and bring them together occasionally. Not a smart move, but I would probably do it again.

My whole thrust was to encourage dialogue, even knowing the two sides were poles apart. The emerging Greens were happy about that, but the industry hated it. This was also a period when I had moved into part time journalism and there were major corruption revelations in the state. I tended to be in the wrong place at the wrong time there too.

I had given up organisations and parties, but I did still support individuals if they appealed to me. One happened to be a Green candidate who had worked on my earlier Democrats campaign. We went back a way and got on well.

The Greens, as a party, didn’t really appeal, despite having known so great people in that organisation. The policy base was narrow and at time a bit extreme for my tastes. To be fair, Bob Brown was always a decent bloke, but he had a big mark to make on our national political scene.

Like Brown, his party has matured. The policy base is broad, albeit reflecting environmental concerns, and the presentation excellent. I broke my own rules this election and voted for the individual I most respected – a Green – then a straight Green Senate ticket.

The latter because the only safeguard this country has against greedy, self-seeking politicians is a balance of power in the senate. And the Greens can deliver that with appropriate moderation.

Monday, November 26, 2007

If I was into dancing in the street….

Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile is to quit as leader of the National Party. He made the announcement at a news conference in Canberra today. I am predicting, despite his protestations, Vaile will leave parliament within six months.

Why hast thou forsaken me?

After a day spent trying to woo voters in traditionally strong Labor electorates, Vaile remained upbeat during the count. He prayed for a Coalition comeback at a church service in his NSW home town Taree before joining Prime Minister John Howard at a function in Sydney.

The National Party is in damage control after losing up to three seats across the country. They lost Dawson in North Queensland, Page on the NSW north coast and possibly Cowper in regional NSW.

That will prune them back to nine or ten seats nationally, continuing their slow steady death as a political force. Vaile suffered under Howard’s Liberals who were already treating their coalition junior partner as an increasing irritation.

I find his idea of a God fascinating. “Don’t worry about praying for the wider community, the people of this country – just save our sorry arses God.”

Well his God let him down it appears. And after all that money he has flowed into the Catholic Church out of government coffers. Perhaps God doesn’t really like Catholics.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The fallout

I can’t stray too far from economics, especially since the now former treasurer, anointed next Liberal leader, has stepped away from the opportunity to lead a dead party.

Peter Costello says he ''would not seek nor accept'' a nomination to be the new opposition leader and instead would step away from politics for a business career.

I don’t blame him, only his timing. I said some months ago that if he was smart Costello would leave parliament and take up a plumb posting. Among those mentioned was an appointment to the board of the Bank of England. That is a plumb.

But like Howard he hung in. Plumb appointments now depend on how far the real economists spread their message: Rubbish leaders spread

“If John Howard and Peter Costello lose today's election, let's hope we see an end to the economic half-truths and illiteracies they've been spreading for the past decade.”

The article is worth a read, even if you don’t really understand economics. I’ve talked many of these issues before, albeit as a virtual economic illiterate. I guess I’m pleased some of the things I’ve raised are being confirmed.

As for Peter, well I didn’t believe he would become Prime Minister, but I hope he finds a niche in the corporate world. Unfortunately the next in line for leader of the Libs is a former merchant banker who wants to sell the country wholesale.

Again I am pleased that the Greens will hold the balance in the Senate. There is a slim margin between disaster and disaster without that.

Morning after

“Mr Rudd maintained his usual restraint but beamed widely and embraced and kissed family, friends and supporters as he took the short walk to the stage.”

The new Prime Minister – Ruddbot – is incredibly restrained in his behaviour, not a good sign of things to come from a new government. Or perhaps half the bottle of Chivas Regal (held in the pic by Robin) is having its effects.

I’m furiously going through the numbers now to confirm my slightly inebriated belief that the Greens will save us from an abundance of hubris. The morning news is:

“THE GREENS have emerged as the balance-of-power party in the Senate after the last two Democrat senators crashed and the environmental party picked up at least two extra seats.”

It seemed there was a strong swing to Greens across the lower house count, and I was hoping that would translate to the Senate, the only place it really counts. Now I shall find an ice pack and simply enjoy the moment. A very personal moment for me seeing Howard dumped.

The picture is of the almost candidate Robin and my good friend and neighbour Mr Singh. I hadn't really touched up the bottle at that stage.

Morning after reflections – the tsunami effect

After a bit of the hair of the dog (that bit me) I’m more able to look back at a weird and wonderful night. I was expecting a fairly early result, one way or the other.

We still (fortunately) record our vote on pieces of paper which must then be counted. The fly in the ointment last night was that the early count was coming from small outlying booths, and didn’t really reflect the final result.

In fact it was around 10 pm before the real numbers started flowing in, the big polling stations which must have been triple counting primaries and preference distribution. It was an anus clenching night and the Australian Electoral Commission deserves congratulations for the way it was done.

But it was like a tsunami, the silent killer. No one was conceding or bragging most of the evening, and then we were swamped by a Labor wave. I predicted a 30 seat gain and might have egg on my face. At this stage it is looking closer to 28.

But the great news is that neither major party will own the Senate.